By Mike Torpey on 2014-09-06 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Mercedes-Benz B 180
CDI ECO SE
FOR a brand that produces more than a dozen different classes of cool carriage - let alone the various sub-divisions - I often wonder why drivers are attracted to the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
Most of the German marque's models are desirable in the extreme, but the the B-Class? Well the name says it all really.
Spend some time with a new version that's become both leaner and greener though, and the reasons began to become clearer.
Called ECO SE, the latest version of the premium compact MPV can produce some serious money-saving numbers.
It's all down to weight-saving measures, engine refinements, improved fuel consumption with zero impact on performance and improved dynamics.
And the six-speed manual transmission has longer ratios in the higher gears, there's an improved energy recuperation system and the Merc makes use of a lightweight fuel tank to save on weight too.
The upshot is an average fuel consumption figure of 74.3mpg, a claim I got very close to matching, and a car that's free of road tax.
Being honest, you couldn't be blamed for wanting more blast from a Benz as the B's 1.4-litre diesel engine only delivers 109bhp, and every digit of its 11.6-second journey to 62mph seems to linger.
A few heavy revs help, and once up to speed you soon forget all about engine capacity.
What you do notice is the car's quality, comfort and space.
The seating position is quite upright, headroom excellent and lowering the floor in rear has resulted in legroom that even surpasses that of the S and E-Class models.
As for practicality, there's 486 litres of cargo space, with the option of a height-adjustable load compartment floor and the 60:40 split rear seats fold almost flat to boost the luggage area to a cavernous 1,545 litres.
Upmarket features like active park assist, a collision prevention system, journey fatigue recognition plus 10-spoke alloy wheels are part of the package.
And as a family car, great importance has also been attached to rear occupant safety with belt tensioners, force limiters and belt height adjusters standard on the outer seats.
Stuff like a reversing camera (£305), metallic paint (£515) and a Comand online media set-up (£2,100) are optional extras though.
Mercedes-Benz B 180 CDI ECO SE
Mechanical: 109bhp, 1,461cc 4-cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via seven-speed automatic transmission
Max Speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 11.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 74.3
Insurance Group: 98g/km
C02 emissions: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles
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